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We Are Grateful You Found Her a Spot on The Sound Radio*

OntheAirThere’s a lot of excitement here at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist…. I’m a guest on Tell Me a Story, a regular feature on The Magic Happens Radio Network! All sorts of terrific authors and other talented folk appear on this show; I’m honoured to be among them. I’m on the air live from 10:30am PDT/17:30pm GMT to 11:00am PDT/18:00 GMT. If you’d like to listen the link is right here. After the broadcast, I’ll be posting a link to the podcast, so if you can’t listen live, but you’d like to hear me drone on, you’ll be able to do that.


Thanks very much to The Magic Happens and to Tell Me a Story!

This just in…

The podcast is now available, so if you’re interested, it’s right here.

NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s Good Night and Thank You.

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Radio, Radio*

LiveBroadcastI’m really excited to announce that I’ve been invited as a guest on Tell Me a Story, presented by The Magic Happens Radio Network! If you’re free, and you’d like to listen, tune in right here tomorrow, 22 May, 10:30am PDT/17:30 GMT. More details then! And no worries if you’re not free at that time; I’ll be posting a podcast.

NOTE: The title of this post is the title of a song by Elvis Costello.


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Light Starch

Light StarchKelly brushed a damp strand of straight, black hair away from her face as she bent over the laundry bag. It was only eight o’clock in the morning, but it was already warm outside, and much worse inside. The heat was really the only thing she didn’t like about working at the laundry/dry cleaner. That and the customers who thought they could drop off a full bag of laundry and get it back within half an hour.

The blue nylon bag gapped open at the top as Kelly undid the drawstring. It was part of her job to count the items in each bag and make sure they tallied with the customer’s count. Slowly she started going through everything. When she’d finished the count, she noticed that there were still some crumpled-up clothes at the bottom of the bag. With an irritated sigh, she reached in to pull out the extras. Now she’d have to call and verify those other clothes, and that always took time. Not to mention customers almost never remembered exactly what they’d sent in (‘Don’t you check those things against the lists I give you? What’s on the list?’).

Kelly’s face paled as she drew out a pair of jeans with dark, ugly, rusty stains on them. She’d been in the business long enough to know that there was only one thing that made that kind of stain. She dropped the jeans on the floor and reached into the bag again. This time it was a long-sleeved mint-green blouse, with the same rusty patches and a ragged tear through the front of it. Gulping back an urge to retch, she hurried to the rear of the store to find her boss.

Shane was in the tiny office, getting a bank deposit ready. He glanced up when Kelly rushed in. He took a look at her white face and heard her ragged breathing.
‘What’s the matter, Kel?’
Her breath still came in short gasps. ‘I found – I found clothes at the bottom of the bag. All bloody!’
‘OK, breathe. Now, sit down here and start over. What happened?’ Shane got up and gestured towards his seat.

Kelly nodded, slumped gratefully into her boss’ chair and began again, this time in a slightly calmer voice. ‘I was sorting the drop-off laundry bags. One of them didn’t tally right, so I pulled out the extras. There was a pair of jeans and a blouse. They have blood all over them, and there’s a slash mark in the blouse. I think we need to tell somebody – like the police.’
‘Kelly, we don’t know what exactly happened to those clothes. There’s no sense calling anyone just because we found some things with blood on them. People have accidents. People tear their clothes. Doesn’t necessarily mean we need to call the cops.’
‘But shouldn’t we do something?’
‘You’re right, we should.’ Shane said firmly. ‘But let’s not panic. Whose bag was it?’

Kelly looked down at the customer tally sheet she was still holding. ‘Fredericks. Alan Fredericks. Oh!’ Her eyes widened and she looked up at her boss. ‘I know who that is! He’s flirted with me a couple of times. Even asked me out once. I wonder if those clothes are a girlfriend’s or something.’ For just a moment, Kelly was angry with herself for half-believing lines from a guy who probably had someone else. Then the reality of those stained clothes hit her again and she swallowed hard.

‘His private life is his business,’ Shane was saying. ‘Ours is getting clothes clean. But I agree this is weird. I’ll give him a call and ask him about the clothes.’
‘All right,’ Kelly said. Shane nodded and Kelly got his silent message to get back to work. She returned to the pile of laundry bags waiting for her and got ready to dig in again. She covered the jeans and blouse with an empty laundry bag so she wouldn’t have to look at them. Good thing she wasn’t going to have to ask about those clothes.

Later, when Kelly came back from her break, she noticed that the pile underneath the empty laundry bag was gone. She breathed a sigh of relief; Shane must have taken care of everything. He was a good boss that way – always noticed those details that other managers might not.

The next morning, Kelly listened to the news on her car’s radio as she headed towards the laundry. She almost drove through a red light when she heard the name ‘Alan Fredericks.’ She slammed on her brakes just in time and listened as she caught her breath.


‘…was arrested last evening on suspicion of murder. The victim, 29-year-old Lisa Turing, had been reported missing two days earlier by her employer. Her bloodstained clothes were found in a laundry bag belonging to Fredericks, and the alleged murder weapon was later found in a dumpster outside Fredericks’ apartment building. He is expected to be arraigned later today.’


So there had been something wrong about those clothes!

As Kelly parked her car at work, another thought came to her. Her eyebrows furrowed as she tried to make sense of it. She went inside, where Shane was already setting up for the day.
‘I heard the news about Alan Fredericks,’ she said after they’d greeted each other.
‘Yeah, pretty awful.’
She nodded and booted up the computer. Without telling Shane, she looked up Alan Fredericks’ account. She’d been right!

‘Hey, Shane,’ she asked.
‘I just looked up that guy’s account. Fredericks. Here’s the funny thing. His tallies were always exact. Never anything extra or missing. But this one time, it’s off. What if somebody’s trying to frame him? You know, stuff the clothes in there to make it look like he’s guilty.’
Shane looked at the account over her shoulder. ‘You watch too many cop shows, Kelly. They found the murder weapon and the clothes. They’ll find whatever else there is, and if he’s not guilty, they’ll find that out, too.’
‘But shouldn’t we tell them about this? About how the tallies were different just this one time?’
‘Don’t make drama, Kelly, OK? I gave the clothes to the police. They have the number here if they want to talk to either of us. They’ll call if they have questions.’

‘Yeah, you’re probably right,’ Kelly said. She closed out that screen and headed over towards that day’s heap of laundry bags, still puzzled by that tally sheet. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t even hear Shane come up behind her. And by the time he drove the scissors in, it was too late.

Shane liked Kelly; it was a damned shame about her. But she was starting to ask too many questions for her own good. He cleaned up mechanically, putting her body in a garment bag for the moment. He’d move it later. The scissors could be bleach-cleaned, and that would take care of things.

In the meantime, he could at least be glad about that asshole Alan Fredericks. It served him right for screwing around with Lisa. And that lying whore got what she deserved, too. No-one cheated on Shane Marshall. And then to threaten to take him for everything in the divorce settlement? No! This was a much better way to clean up the mess he’d made by marrying her.


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Crime Fiction News Break


Links You’ll Want 

Finalists for the Spanish Dashiell Hammett Award

The MWA Edgar Award Winners

Shotgun Honey’s Locked and Loaded 

Dean Street Press

Career of Evil

Murder in the Manor at The Stage

CrimeFest 2015


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Draft Day For Authors ;-)

Draft Day for AuthorsAs I write and post this, it’s Draft Day for the US National Football League (NFL). That’s the day when all of the NFL teams make their choices of new talent, and it’s a very exciting, important day. Representatives from the teams gather and select players, and the announcements are made by the NFL’s Commissioner. There’s a lot of tension, too, as players and their agents wait to learn whether they’ll be first round (top) choices, whether they’ll be picked later in the process, or whether they won’t be chosen at all. The whole process has got me thinking about the way publishers choose authors. What if the process were the same? What would it be like?

Before we go on, please do not bring your disbelief into this blog post. It’ll be much happier playing elsewhere for a bit. Ready? Here’s my look at…


Draft Day For Authors


Announcer 1: Good afternoon. I’m Mark Mason

Announcer 2: And I’m Tara Turner. Welcome to Draft Day 2015.

Mark: It’s going to be a great draft this year. We’ve got some terrific talent, so we should see some exciting choices.

Tara: That’s right Mark. I think the publishers are going to do really well this year.

Mark: Now, of course, all the talk lately has been about Brenda Brownstone. Her historical novel has gotten her a lot of attention. She could very well be the first pick.

Tara: But can she be consistent? That’s the question, Mark. When she’s at the top of her game, no one can come close, but she’s also had her off times.

Mark: Yes, she has, Tara. But the word is, EverLine Publishers is counting on her settling out. And they need some historical writers.

Tara: Writing Commissioner Stephen Styles is coming up to the podium now. Looks like we’re ready to start. Let’s listen.

Commissioner Styles: Welcome to the 2015 Author Draft. I’d like to thank everyone for being here. Without further ado, let’s get started. EverLine Publishers starts the draft for this year. For the first round, EverLine chooses… [Reads card] Brenda Brownstone, New Orleans, historical novelist.


Mark: Well, that’s pretty much what we expected. And you can see how excited she and her agent are. I think she’ll be a good fit.

Tara: I do too, Mark. Now, in just a few minutes, we’ll hear from Fairwinds Publications.

[A few moments later]

Commissioner Styles: For the second pick of the first round, Fairwinds Publications selects [reads card] Carl Cameron, Edinburgh, crime writer.

Mark: Well now, that is a surprising choice. Fairwinds is already deep when it comes to crime fiction. You’d have thought they would have gone for romance writer Nicki Knowles. They need a good romance writer.

Tara: That’s true, Mark, and you can see that the fans are not happy at all about this choice. [Sounds of boos and ‘No!’ in the background]  It’s not clear why Fairwinds would have gone in that direction.

Mark [Shaking his head]: Well, they may be proved right in the end, but it’s not the choice a lot of people would have made. Let’s get ready for the next pick.

Commissioner Styles: For the third pick of this first round…Eagle Feather Press has traded its first round draft pick to Camblethorne Books. Camblethorne Books chooses [Looks at card]…Shayna Shilmer, Melbourne, thriller writer.

Tara: Now that’s a smart trade by Eagle Feather, Mark. They’re going to pick up Camblethorne’s choice in the next round, and that actually works for them, since they’re trying to build up their science fiction section.

Mark: That’s a good point, Tara, although I will say, I’m not sure whether it’ll pay off. Peter Prentiss is one of the strongest science fiction writers out there, and he may very well go in this first round. Marsdon Books has their eye on him, and they’re up at fifteenth pick.

Tara: True, Mark. We’ll just have to see what Marsdon does.

[Several hours go by]

Mark: So far, it’s been a really exciting first round, hasn’t it, Tara?

Tara: It sure has, Mark. Lots of terrific picks and some interesting deals and trades, too. It’s shaping up to be a great publishing season! And now we’re down to the last three picks of the first round. It’s Random House’s turn now, and my feeling is that they’re going to go for a literary fiction writer. And my guess is that they’ll probably pick Edward Eddison. He’s got the atmospheric talent they’ve been looking for, and before the broadcast, his agent told me she was really optimistic for him.

Mark: I think that’s the way they’ll go too, Tara. They have been a little soft on literary fiction. In fact, I think that’s part of why Simon & Schuster looked so good last season. Their literary talent just dominated.

Commissioner Styles: In the thirtieth pick of the first round, Random House selects… [Looks at card] Edward Eddison, London, literary fiction writer. [Loud applause]

Mark: Looks like you nailed that one, Tara. And there’s Edward and his agent hugging. Clearly they’re delighted by the news.

[At the end of the first round]

Tara: Well, that’s it for the first round, and it’s been fantastic, hasn’t it?

Mark: One of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Tara: So what do you see coming up in the second round?

Mark: Now, that’ll be interesting, Tara. You notice that mystery writer Anna Ambliss, out of New York, didn’t go in the first round. And earlier in the year, she was looking like one of the best prospects for this season.

Tara: She certainly did look good, Mark. But of course her chances have been impacted by that liquor store incident.

Mark: Yes, we’ve all been following that story. Now, her attorney claims the whole thing was a misunderstanding. According to him, she was doing research for her next novel.

Tara: Whatever the outcome of that hearing is, it’s definitely hurt her here in the draft. She could very well fall.

Mark: She certainly could. [Turns to face camera] That’s it for our coverage of the first round of the 2015 author draft.

Tara: [Also facing camera] Make sure you catch all the second-round action tomorrow!

[Cut to advertisement]


So what do you think? Would you want publishers to choose their authors this way? Writers, would you want to be in the draft?

You may now collect your disbelief on your way out. Thank you.


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